Monday, January 31, 2011

New Perceptions of High, Middle and Low Level

Levels can be a hard concept to teach little ones.  I usually teach low level is at the floor, middle level is table top level and high level is as high as you can reach or jump.  But that is not necessarily the truth.

Low can go much lower than the floor.  As anyone whose backyard looks like the Artic right now, you can dig WAY lower than where your feet are planted.  You can build a gigantic tunnel under the ground!  And middle level, well, when I was trying to chase my puppy into the house I experienced middle level where low level used to be.  And high level when I am walking on the snow is a wonderful place to explore because I never reach this high without the help of a stool or chair.  I guess what I am saying is that levels can be relative based on your environment.

It makes me think about how my perception of level is very different than a child who is 3 feet tall.  His or her high level is my middle level.  It is great every once in a while to change your outlook, see things differently and put yourselves in the minds eye of the children you teach. 

Yes, the clouds to both kids and adults are way up in high level but the door knob to a two year old is in high level  while to me it is in middle level.

Try exploring the levels with your class and don't give them images of what high, middle and low level is to you.  See and hear what it means to them.  And watch how they explore it with their high, middle and low level bodies!

Have fun exploring perceptions with the kids in your life!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Opposite Day: A Summer Day At The Beach

If you live in the Northeast you are experiencing one snowstorm after another.  And it is getting very tiring!!  What do you do when your surroundings are getting very  monotonous?  What do you do when you feel like your teaching is getting monotonous?  Shake it up a bit by having opposite day.

If you are tired of pulling off little snow boots, wiping snow off the floor and zipping up coats try this activity on for size!

A Summer Day at the Beach
  • Ask your students to bring in beach towels and do floor exercises on them like you are sun bathing!
  • Have your students bring in sunglasses, hats, beach balls, pails and shovels and have these props inspire your movements
  • Find some beach inspired music and swim in the ocean with dolphins, crabs and starfish ( dolphins dive up and down, crabs walk sideways and starfish have 6 reaching points.)
  • Explore the opposite texture/movement of the ocean vs. the beach ( the ocean is always moving, the sand is moved when people step on it.  The ocean pulls the sand.)
Have fun moving in sunny weather with the children in your life - and don't forget the sunblock!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Hug O' War

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day I would like to share with you a favorite poem of mine by Shel Silverstein.  This poem is from his book Where the Sidewalk Ends.  If you have never read his work I encourage you to run to your nearest library or bookstore and  immerse yourself in his children's poetry and stories.    If you are familiar with him I encourage you to run to your nearest library or bookstore and immerse yourself as well.   

Share this poem with your class and see what images and ideas they come up with. Can they make a hug dance? Tug and hug are opposites. What is the difference between the two? How can they show you this with movement. What does a giggle or a smile look like in dance?

Can your children/students create a dance where a tug o' war becomes a hug o'war? What is the importance of working together and teamwork? Everyone has a body. With our bodies we can share our feelings, ideas and create together. What can they learn from each other?  What can they create together?

Share this poem this week with the children in your life and enjoy the dances and conversations it inspires!

Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Communicating Without Saying A Word

My family recently got a dog.  I was dreading housebreaking.  I came to realize as I hovered over our little puppy that she was training me instead of the other way round.  She was communicating her needs by sniffing the floor, walking in a circle and walking away from her toys and food bowl.   How wonderful that movement was her way of telling me she needed to go out.

Of course this got me thinking about all the non spoken ways we as humans communicate with each other.  And I am not talking about facial gestures either.  Do you have a student that always sits as far away from you as possible?  Or one that is practically sitting in your lap?    Do you have a student that slowly inches his way into the classroom and one that bounds in the moment you open the door?
They are telling you something.

I like to mix things up when I teach.  I sometimes stand in front of a class and get them all settled.  Then I walk to the back of the room and have all the students turn to face me.  A student that likes to sit in the back is now in the first row and vice-versa.   Try this out and see how your students respond.  Challenge them to take risks, not by the steps they take, but the space they take.

If you have a student that always bounds into the room and then one day walks in slowly you know there is a change in mood or behavior.  Sometimes the cues kids give us are more subtle than this.  If you observe your students and what they tell you with their movements then these subtle cues can become more obvious.

When I studied dance I always liked to stand in the front right corner.  I could see the teacher but was not standing right in front of her.  If I did not get to class early enough I would have to find an open spot.  When this happened I was never as comfortable.  I now see how that challenged me.

Change where you stand to teach class.  Notice if you always like to stand in the same place.  Are you giving subtle information to the class by the spaces you choose as well?

Have fun observing how the students in your life communicate through movement!


Monday, January 3, 2011

A Look Ahead to Recital Time

It might be silly to already be thinking about spring but as resolutions for 2011 are being made, so are plans for spring dance recitals.  Now is the perfect time to think not only about the dance steps but what you want your children to LEARN about being part of a performance.   If you are not a dance teacher but a dance parent this applies to you too! 
Things to think about:
  1. What do you want your children/students to take away from their performing experience?  (It can be as simple as to demonstrate what they learned in class, follow through with a commitment or to share their movement ideas with others.)
  2. What can you teach your children/students about performing that goes beyond the dance? (How to be a good audience member, what an audience member experiences from buying a ticket to getting a program to finding their designated seats.)
  3. What do you want your children or students to learn about putting on a performance?  (Costumes, lighting, music, make-up, tickets, etc)
  4. How involved do you want you students to be in creating/choreographing the dance?  (Can they create a few steps, maybe personalize their bows, vote on the music or props?)
  5. What role do you see the parents taking?  (Backstage helpers, costume makers, or nothing at all)
  6. What do you want your children/students to learn about performing? (Everyone needs to work together,  practicing leads to perfecting a dance, everyone has a special part to play, you can overcome butterflies and nervousness, etc.)
By thinking about the complete picture now, the performance at the end of the year will be fulfilling and satisfying for everyone!  Every experience you involve children in can be a valuable learning experience. 

Have fun creating an end of the year goal and objectives for and with the children in your life!